Installing or replacing a bathtub is a tricky process that’s difficult to do yourself. If you’re looking for a cheaper and more convenient alternative, consider having a tub liner professionally installed instead.

Even a well-made bathtub won’t last forever. Fiberglass tubs will eventually chip and develop holes; porcelain tubs are easy to crack; even cast iron bathtubs rust and chip. If your tub is starting to show its age, you have three options. You can refinish your current tub, replace the tub entirely, or have a bathtub liner installed over your existing tub or shower. 

Sanding and refinishing is the least expensive option, but it typically doesn’t last very long. If you want a more permanent solution, you’ll need to choose between installing a new tub or a tub liner. If your tub and shower are the only things that need an upgrade, a bathtub liner from Bath Fitter is an excellent choice. Our tub installation overview will compare bathtub replacement with bath liner installation so you can see which one is right for you.

New Tub Installation Process

Unless you’re installing a tub in a newly-constructed house, you’ll almost certainly need to remove the old bathtub first, including the faucet and drains. Depending on the size of your bathroom, you may have to remove the toilet and cabinets to do this. You’ll also likely have to cut away some of the wall surround, whether you want to replace it or not. 

After the old tub is out, you’ll need to clean and repair the empty area, which may have mold or other types of damage. You may need to replace some of the insulation or wall studs while you’re at it.

Before installing the new tub, you’ll need to check that the floor underneath is completely level and make any necessary adjustments. Before putting the new tub in place, you’ll need to install a new stringer, drain, and overflow drain. Once you’ve put the new bathtub in, you can connect the drains, nail the tub flange to the wall studs, and repair the tub surround. Finish by caulking all necessary joins.

Of course, this all assumes that your new tub uses the same plumbing fixtures as the old one. If you need to rearrange the pipes, you’ll need a licensed plumber. Additionally, you’ll almost certainly need at least one person to help you move the old tub and insert the new one. The process will probably take three to five days, and it’s an advanced project that new DIYers shouldn’t undertake alone.

Bath Fitter Installation Process

By contrast, the process of installing a Bath Fitter tub liner typically takes a single day and doesn’t require demolition or removal of the existing tub. A consultant will meet with you at home or online to discuss your options and take measurements and photos of your bathroom. A centralized factory then uses these measurements to create a custom liner that will fit atop your existing bathtub and the surrounding walls.

It can take several days to several weeks to create your custom liner. When the new liner is ready, a Bath Fitter technician will bring it to your home and install it in a day. First, they will clean and repair the existing fixtures and then use silicone adhesives to adhere the liner to the tub and surrounding walls. Finally, they’ll use caulk to seal all seams so that moisture can’t become trapped behind the liner.

What Is a Bathtub Liner?

A bathtub liner is a sheet of high-quality acrylic or PVC plastic molded into the shape of your bathtub. You can purchase a liner that fits only the basin of the bathtub or shower pan, or you can include a piece that covers the tub surroundings, as well. Since the liner is custom-molded to your specifications, the manufacturer can include features like shelving and grab bars by request. You’ll often have your choice of colors and textures, and the wall surround piece can even mimic the appearance of tiles.

Types of Bathtub Liners

Bathtub liners may be made of several different materials, but the most common are PVC and acrylic.

PVC Liners

Polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, is a strong, flexible type of plastic that’s useful for many applications in construction and home improvement. PVC tub liners are the least expensive, but they’re also the most likely to crack, allowing moisture to get trapped behind the liner.

Acrylic Liners

On the other hand, acrylic tub liners are more expensive, but they’re far more durable. The material is colored all the way through so that scratches won’t be visible on the surface. Additionally, acrylic can be treated to resist mold and mildew growth. Bath Fitter creates high-gloss, nonporous acrylic bathtub liners that are low-maintenance and guaranteed to last.

Pros and Cons of Using Bathtub Liners

Like any other home improvement solution, bath liners have benefits and drawbacks. Perhaps the most significant benefit is the ease of installation. It’s relatively quick, usually taking only a day, including repairs to the existing tub and surrounding area. You won’t have to deal with the mess and inconvenience of a complete bathroom remodel or a tub removal and replacement. While some off-gassing from the adhesive might occur, there aren’t the same lingering odors that come with a bathtub refinishing or reglazing spray.

Your tub liner can be customized to fit your needs, including built-in shelves and seats. Since it’s one piece and there’s no grout, it’s much easier to keep clean than tile. Most liners are treated to repel mold and bacteria, and they can easily be wiped clean. The liner won’t chip like traditional tub finishing, and the high-quality acrylic will last for decades. Bath Fitter liners even come with a lifetime warranty for as long as you own your home.

However, there are some drawbacks to having a bathtub liner installed:

  1. First, while the technician will repair visible problems before installation, a liner will only cover any underlying problems in the walls or beneath the existing tub. 
  2. Additionally, if the liner cracks or is not properly sealed, it can trap moisture and allow mold and mildew to build up. 
  3. Because the liner fits over the existing tub, it can make the space feel smaller. 
  4. Bath liners aren’t compatible with acrylic, freestanding, or jetted tubs. 
  5. Finally, even though it’s not as expensive as a full bathroom remodeling project, it may not bring the same increase in your home’s value.

Our Recommendation

Neither replacing a tub nor installing a liner is a DIY project, especially for new homeowners. Unfortunately, bathtub replacement is usually both costly and inconvenient.  It can be a part of a more comprehensive bathroom renovation, but not everyone is prepared to take on that expense. 

Having a liner installed is a quick and often less expensive way to revitalize the wet area of your bathroom without having to pay for a full tub renovation. Moreover, a skilled technician who installs it properly can mitigate many of the drawbacks of a tub or shower liner. Contact Bath Fitter for a free quote or to schedule your free consultation.

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of materials do you need for a bathtub installation?

If you’re attempting to install a bathtub yourself, you’ll need the following materials:

  • Bathtub basin
  • Roofing nails
  • Waste and overflow drain assembly
  • Leveling compound
  • Plumber’s putty
  • Silicone caulk

Of course, you’ll also need a variety of tools, including but not limited to a cordless drill, prybar, channel-lock wrench, circular saw, and shop vacuum.

What is the difference between a tub liner and a bathtub?

The bathtub is the actual basin that you sit in to bathe. A tub liner, on the other hand, is a thin sheet of PVC or acrylic that sits over the tub. The liner can’t change the shape or depth of the tub itself, but it can extend up the wall surrounds and have built-in features like soap dishes or shower seats.

What is the difference between a bathtub liner and a bathtub insert?

A “bathtub insert” is another name for a liner since it’s inserted into the existing bathtub alcove. Alternatively, the phrase bathtub insert may refer to a liner that only covers the bathtub itself, not the wall surrounds.

How difficult is installing a tub?

In terms of DIY projects, tub installation requires a great deal of skill. First, you’ll need to take care not to damage the surrounding walls, particularly if the tub sits in an alcove. Depending on the size of your bathroom, you may also need to remove the toilet, sink, or cabinets. Finally, you’ll need access to the area underneath the tub, which may involve going through an adjoining wall or the floor.

Can I install a tub liner myself?

While you can buy generic tub liner kits at large hardware and home improvement stores, you need to be careful about installing them on your own. One of the biggest drawbacks to bath liners is the chance for moisture to become trapped underneath, and this is very common when they aren’t installed properly. They can also crack if they aren’t perfectly fitted to your existing bathtub, so the best option is to go with a company that can create a custom liner and install it for you.

Editorial Contributors
Alora Bopray

Alora Bopray

Staff Writer

Alora Bopray is a digital content producer for the home warranty, HVAC, and plumbing categories at Today's Homeowner. She earned her bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of St. Scholastica and her master's degree from the University of Denver. Before becoming a writer for Today's Homeowner, Alora wrote as a freelance writer for dozens of home improvement clients and informed homeowners about the solar industry as a writer for EcoWatch. When she's not writing, Alora can be found planning her next DIY home improvement project or plotting her next novel.

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Roxanne Downer


Roxanne Downer is a commerce editor at Today’s Homeowner, where she tackles everything from foundation repair to solar panel installation. She brings more than 15 years of writing and editing experience to bear in her meticulous approach to ensuring accurate, up-to-date, and engaging content. She’s previously edited for outlets including MSN, Architectural Digest, and Better Homes & Gardens. An alumna of the University of Pennsylvania, Roxanne is now an Oklahoma homeowner, DIY enthusiast, and the proud parent of a playful pug.

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